In January 2007, not long after George W. Bush announced his
surge of troops into Iraq, I happened to be having lunch with a Chinese
friend who is a well-connected member of the Communist Party. I asked
him how the news was being received in Beijing. He replied in words to
the effect of: “We would hope that you would send the entire American
Army into Iraq and stay for another 10 years. Meanwhile, we will keep
building up our economy.” I thought of that story this week while
traveling in Southeast Asia. As the Islamic State, Iran and Greece
occupy the attention of the Western world, China marches forward, except
now it is
not just building its economy but also a new geopolitics in Asia.
Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Post. He is also the
host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for The
Atlantic. View Archive
Recently released satellite photos show
that China has almost completed an airstrip on one of the many
artificial islands it has created in the Spratly archipelago over the
past year and a half. Its actions in the area are intended to
consolidate its claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea, through
which $5 trillion in trade flows every year. (These claims are disputed
by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.)
Xi Jinping has marked a break with his predecessors in openly embracing
an activist foreign policy, speaking about the “Asia-Pacific dream” and announcing ventures such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the “Maritime Silk Road.” Behind this rhetoric is an avalanche of cash. Scholar David Shambaugh points
out that if you add up China’s promised investments in all of these
regional ventures, the total is $1.41 trillion. The Marshall Plan, by
comparison, cost $103 billion in today’s dollars.
senior Southeast Asian diplomat explained to me that China is using
money and pressure to “suborn” countries in the region. He pointed out
that aid is often carefully targeted, so that money to Malaysia, for
example, is directed specifically to the state of Pahang, the political
base of the prime minister. “In Myanmar and Thailand, [the Chinese] make
sure the generals get their share of the contracts,” he said. In
smaller countries such as Cambodia and Laos, Chinese money dominates the
is also enlarging its military options, with the Spratly reclamation
and a significant expansion of the country’s land-based missile systems.
In addition, Beijing has been quietly damming rivers that flow across
its borders — from the Mekong
to the Brahmaputra — which would give it the ability in a crisis to cut
water supplies to Cambodia and India, respectively.
in Singapore told me that Beijing has even begun to reach out to local
Singaporeans of Chinese descent and to nudge the city-state’s foreign
policy — which remains staunchly allied to the United States — in a more
pro-Chinese direction. “Diplomats from the Chinese embassy contact my
Chinese constituents and brief them,” one politician told me. “They
sponsor all-expenses paid trips to China for young Chinese Singaporeans.
They are active, engaged and smart.”
how do diplomats in Southeast Asia see the United States? As distracted
and largely absent. The ones I spoke with credit the Obama
administration with the right basic strategy in its “pivot” to Asia, but
they fault it for little follow-up and poor implementation. They have
been heartened by the moves forward in Congress on theTrans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement but worry that it has taken too long in the face of relentless Chinese advances.
security adviser] Susan Rice doesn’t seem to know much or care about
Asia; [Secretary of State] John Kerry was distracted by his quest for
Middle East peace; the president has canceled trips to Asia,” one
diplomat said to me. “Finally, with [Defense Secretary] Ash Carter, we
have a strategist at the Pentagon, and it has already made a difference.
The Chinese are more cautious.”
makes dealing with China’s growing influence in Asia especially tricky
is that a good part of it is inevitable and could be benign. China is
the largest trading partner of almost all Asian economies as well asAustralia.
involvement in the region could be a win-win. But it also produces
great anxieties about political domination. Countries here are looking
to the United States to deter China yet engage it. They do not want to
upset the basic atmosphere of trade, commerce and comity that has
allowed many Asian countries to boom.
we want from Washington is not simply countermeasures, but
sophisticated, nuanced and persistent diplomacy,” says Kishore
Mahbubani, former foreign secretary of Singapore. The United States was
“able to do this during the Cold War, when you were in competition with
the Soviet Union. You had to listen to locals, woo countries and above
all be deeply, continuously engaged. I don’t see that anymore.”
ROLAND SAN JUAN was a researcher, management consultant, inventor, a part time radio broadcaster and a publishing director. He died last November 25, 2008 after suffering a stroke. His staff will continue his unfinished work to inform the world of the untold truths. Please read Erick San Juan's articles at: ericksanjuan.blogspot.com This blog is dedicated to the late Max Soliven, a FILIPINO PATRIOT.
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